I remember my first love so clearly.
I swore he was the ONE, right until I found out he was also someone else’s ONE. In that nanosecond he snapped my little heart in half.
I’d spent three years planning our life together and living in his place in preparation for a proposal. Overnight I became homeless, boyfriend-less and, because I’d built my world around him, identity-less.
Ugly, devastating to my health and completely avoidable if I’d known a few things beforehand.
So two decades later, with my heartbreak hurdle well behind me, I found my twenty-year-old daughter sobbing “But…he’s the ONE,” and her pain was like an old friend.
I watched my daughter’s heart crack wide open and decided that this heartbreak would go differently. I wouldn’t let her disintegrate into a shell of her former self, or become an Instagram addict desperate to prove her lovability online.
I would tell her the truth about heartbreak and stop the damage before it started. Yes, break-ups are traumatic but they’re also part of life. If she handled this heartbreak wisely, it might transform all her future relationships. Including her relationship with herself.
So even though I wanted to take the loser who had dumped her and bounce concrete off of him, I resisted. There was no cursing or name calling, because she was still in love with him. I didn’t want to create distance between my daughter and me when she needed me most.
I bit my tongue letting her download her feelings without labeling him as the bad guy or her as the victim. No judgement. It was what it was. OVER.
I didn’t fan the pity party flames with a load of blame and shame that she’d still be carrying years later and I didn’t sing the old plenty more fish in the sea song. Instead, I went into meta-physical-mama-mode and asked her to see things differently. Relationships involve mind and body and true soul mates often have valuable lessons for each other that don’t include a lifetime of togetherness. My first love broke my heart, but ultimately set my life on a completely different path.
Every relationship is a learning assignment. I wanted my daughter to get the learning and move on.
In pure heartbreak the sensation of separation hurts most, so I comforted my daughter with the fact she and her love would always be cosmically connected. I told her that he was a catalyst for her growth. That way she could begin to be grateful for him.
Then, I calmly explained how one particular hormone was wreaking havoc on her ability to let go and find happiness elsewhere.
The love hormone designed to bond us to our babies, also bonds us to the men we have relationships with except sometimes it keeps us attached for waaaaay longer than necessary.
And don’t get me wrong, I love me a bit of Oxytocin, but its effects are drug-like. For every heartbroken woman out there, including my daughter coming off the high is hard. Oxytocin creates a persistent craving. For months after a break up, seeing an ex, looking at his picture or even listening to his voice triggers the oxytocin response.
In heartbreak city, cold turkey is key.
I told my daughter that space, distance and distraction were her new best friends. And distraction did not include drugging herself into numbness. Anaesthetising ourselves only offers a temporary respite. When we come back to to full consciousness the emotional pain is still there, but with an extra portion of feeling physically crappy.
I encouraged my daughter to not suppress her emotions but to really FEEL whatever came up. I wanted her to face the fear of rejection and abandonment full on and sit with it. Being honest about the hurt and aware of where we feel wounded is the first step in healing. Denial and suppression get stored in our cells and become far more dangerous.
Feel. Release. Heal. Over and over.
When she hit rock bottom I told her to take a good look at the gifts around her. She figured out how HE made her feel and where else she can get that in her life. We found examples of where she let him make her feel great instead of owning her own greatness, of where she handed over her power rather than claiming it.
She began to see that love, and any other form of validation, didn’t just come from him. Her own vulnerability started to create strength and resilience. Instead of closing down, she expanded and began breaking the connection to HIM and re-connecting to herself.
We did simple stuff to help her remember life before him. Fun things that made her feel like herself, instead of one half of a dead relationship. I nudged her towards people who loved and supported her, regardless of her single status. I encouraged her to sign up for team sport knowing it would provide sisterhood and support.
Slowly but surely she began to re-kindle the relationships she gave up for him, got her girlfriends back and re-discovered hobbies and planned trips. Gradually she was able to envision a life beyond him.
She learned to hold onto what’s real about herself rather than what she became for him.
And a portal of hope opened. Sure, it was a struggle — there were drunk texts and down days, but she was able to center herself after each forlorn episode.
When life closes a door it ALWAYS opens a window. My job was to pull back the curtains and ask: If you knew there was something and someone better out there for you, would you still be feeling this way???
And finally, I told her the cold, hard truth.
There is no THE ONE.
Nope. Sorry. No way.
It’s a nice idea, but the truth is there are many people over the course of a lifetime who can give us the “ONE” or “TRUE LOVE” experience. Which means we always have options.
Love is never lost, simply held in trust for us until we are ready to receive it.
My daughter needed to hear;
“YOU ARE ALREADY WHOLE.”
There are only future partners with whom we can evolve if we choose, but there are no parts of us that require a partner to fill. My daughter’s anger faded. She released her relationship. Slowly. Tearfully. With love. She’s still handling her heartbreak. Stronger. Focussed on her future and self-preservation.
If in my twenties, I’d let go as consciously and graciously I wonder how much pain and debilitating illness I might have avoided. I’m guessing plenty.
I hope that by helping my daughter handle heartbreak now, in years to come she will in turn pass on the learning to her daughters and grand-daughters. Then maybe one day we will all sit around a campfire, loving, laughing and finally (and respectfully) dissing the jerks we had to lovingly let go in order to learn our own strength.
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Jacqueline Escolme is a mind body wellness teacher, HeartMath coach, nutritional therapist and author of, Rebuild YourHealth Reclaim Your Life. She speaks on self-preservation and transformationfor women and likes to dance on tables in her spare time.